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Scotland is the only country in the United Kingdom to have statutory income targets to eradicate child poverty. Our tackling child poverty delivery plan sets out the actions that we will take to make progress on that ambition and is backed by a £50 million fund. In June 2019, we reported on the strong progress that was made in our first year, with 48 of the 58 actions being developed or delivered. Those include the Scottish child payment to low-income families—worth £10 per week—which is to be introduced by 2020, and the early introduction of that payment for eligible families with children under the age of six by Christmas next year.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer, and note that I appreciate the good work that is on-going.
A recent study by Professor Morag Treanor of Heriot-Watt University on behalf of Aberlour identified that young people from Scotland’s poorest communities are three times more likely to die before they are 25 than those from more affluent areas.
Does the minister agree that working with families early is the key to mitigating and preventing many of the consequential problems and issues that are related to poverty and poverty-related toxic stress—which families experience—and that doing so can prevent problems for families from turning into crises?
In addition, does the Government agree with Aberlour’s campaign, “A bad start shouldn’t mean a bad end”, which asks for commitments to address both the consequences and causes of child poverty, including a national transitional fund to properly support a shift in spend away from costly crisis intervention and towards vital early support for families?
The Government is absolutely determined not only to mitigate what is happening at this moment, but to prevent problems from happening for communities and families in the first place. A key focus of the tackling child poverty delivery plan is to ensure that we lift children out of poverty and prevent that poverty in the first place. As I mentioned in my first answer, the Scottish child payment is one part of that. The new families and communities fund, which begins in April 2020 and is worth up to £16 million annually, will also be used for early intervention and prevention to improve outcomes for children, young people, families, adult learners and communities. I hope that that gives Ruth Maguire further reassurance that the Government takes the issue very seriously indeed and is acting on it.